The Steelers 2015 draft class isn’t a month old yet, but the race to chart their impact is well underway.
Steelers Nation is told the team had the 24th best draft in the NFL. 2nd round pick Senquez Golson is either praised as a steal in some corners and labeled a reach in others. NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread writer is already pushing Steelers first round pick Bud Dupree as a candidate for rookie of the year. (No, seriously he is.)
- As Ike Taylor’s story shows us, evaluating a draft’s quality let alone its impact takes years.
But we do live in the age of the 24/7 news cycle, and the NFL is not immune. Bloggers (including this one) must fill their pages with something, or risk the cyber equivalent of drying up and blowing away.
Who knows if any of the players the Steelers picked in the 2015 NFL Draft will have an impact on the field?
Past experience shows that one, maybe two, and if things are really good 3 will make noise on offense or defense. Hopefully it will rookies will be louder on special teams.
- But one impact of the Steelers 2015 Draft class is already certain.
And leave it for Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter to spell it out. As a player Joey Porter never shied from stirring it up. Actually, Joey Porter reveled in it. He continues to do so as a coach. His response whether he’s looking forward to working with Bud Dupree says it all:
…when you add depth, you make it a better group because now the competition is set so high. And we’re not naïve to the situation. There are only going to be four spots, maybe five. So the competition in my room just got that much stronger and that’s how you like it. When you got those guys in the room and they’re counting the numbers… my room now just went from seven to eight and they know how many spots you’re really going to keep. [emphasis added]
There you have it. The immediate impact of the Steelers 2015 draft class will be in the 2015 training camp battles.
Think about Joey Porter’s outside linebackers. Bud Dupree, James Harrison, Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones are the assured roster spots. That’s it. The Steelers could keep 5 outside linebackers. But someone really has to impress the coaches.
Two months ago former CFL star Shawn Lemon’s main competition for that fifth slot was 2014 draftee Jordan Zumwalt and 2014 practice squad “star” Howard Jones. Now all three have to contend with Anthony Chickillo. Sixth round picks are not shoe ins to get roster spots, but the Steeler have a lot more invested in Chickillo than then have in Lemon or Jones.
- Joey Porter’s outside linebacker’s room isn’t the only one getting uncomfortably crowded.
Antwon Blake was on the Steelers 2013 roster. He heard the talk of how the Steelers were CERTAIN to draft a corner early in the 2014 NFL Draft, and then watched them wait until day 3 to do it. Might Blake have been harboring fantasies that history would repeat? Perhaps. Oh, Blake will enter training camp as the number 3 cornerback on the Steelers depth chart, but now when he looks over one shoulder he’ll see Senquez Golson and glancing over the other will bring him visions of Doran Grant.
- And that’s not the only side of Carnell Lake’s room suffering from overpopulation.
Last season the Steelers closed the year with an unprecedented 6 safeties on the roster. With Troy Polamalu retired that number almost automatically dropped to 5.
Michael Mitchell will start at safety for the Steelers. Shamarko Thomas will have the first shot at the next safety slot (at least we think that.) Will Allen will provide veteran insurance, but if he’s smart he’ll wait to renew his lease through January. Those numbers had to leave Robert Golden and Ross Ventrone feeling good about their odds of making the team.
- The Steelers addition of Gerod Hoillman in the 7th round shakes things up considerable.
No, 7th round picks don’t generally scare most NFL veterans, but back in January there were people mocking Hoillman to the Steelers in the 1st.
Hopefully Bud Dupree and one of the cornerbacks will make contributions to a Steelers defense that’s been starved of splash plays for several seasons now. But until these rookies get to St. Vincents and strap on the pads it’s too early to make any projections.
Steelers fans will long memories will recall the spring of 1991 when Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola gushed over the prospect of rookie first round draft pick Huey Richardson being able to move from inside linebacker to defensive end as the Steelers switched from a 3-4 to 4-3 between series. Richardson he implied, was going to make a Steelers defense that had finished number 1 the previous year even more dynamic. It sounded great on paper, until…
…Richardson strapped on the pads, where he red flags surfaced immediately. Richardson looked lost and even managed to break his nose in non-contract drills.
Granted, Richardson’s an extreme case. But if you want one solid prediction about the Steelers 2015 rookie class, it is this: These eight men are already making a dozen veterans or so uncomfortable.